The Telegraph is claiming that the rate at which British soldiers are being seriously injured or killed on the front line in Afghanistan is about to exceed that suffered by UK troops during the Second World War. While there are many reasons to be cautious about their analysis, e.g. they may be unfairly comparing frontline casualties from Afghanistan with total casualties in WWII, the claim is nonetheless striking.
The casualty rate in the most dangerous regions of the country is approaching 10 per cent. Senior officers fear it will ultimately pass the 11 per cent experienced by British soldiers at the height of the conflict 60 years ago. The rise is partly driven by a tenfold increase in the number of wounded in action – those injured, but not killed – in the past six months as fighting in Afghanistan has intensified.
Last November, only three British soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan by the Taliban, compared with 38 in May.
Meanwhile in Iraq, British troops are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties by proportion than their American colleagues.
In a five-month period this year, there were 23 fatalities among the 5,500 British troops compared with 463 fatalities among the United States’s 165,000 troops, according to the Royal Statistical Society. Military commanders are concerned that the high rate will start to have an impact on operations and morale.